Aldi’s Federal Court win signals possible Eftpos fees for customers

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 30th September 2011

Aldi has won its Federal Court case against ePAL, which has been found liable for misleading and deceptive conduct under the Competition and Consumer Act.

The case related to the fact that the ePAL payment system is changing for Eftpos from 1 October 2011. From that date, a bigger share of the Eftpos payment will flow to owners of ePAL itself. Under the new ePAL system, the retailer’s bank will have to pay an “interchange fee” of up to 15c to the shopper’s bank.

The ePAL company is partly owned by the two major supermarket groups Woolworths and Coles together with the banks and credit unions. However, other retailers such as Aldi are not in that ownership position. Therefore, any retailers outside the two major retailing groups must now consider the possibility of imposing an extra Eftpos charge to recoup part of the interchange fee.

Aldi brought an action against ePAL concerning two media releases and a news report about the new ePAL system changes, alleging this material contained misleading statements.

Aldi won the case because statements by ePAL saying consumers would not be worse off could not be assured by ePAL.

Justice Peter Jacobson of the Federal Court ruled that ePAL had misled consumers by claiming in advertisements and media releases that shoppers “should not face new charges” for Eftpos. He ordered ePAL to publish corrective advertisements to state that “ePAL is aware that some acquirers are intending to pass part or all of these fee changes on to some retailers”.

Some retailers are likely to pass on the new expense of the “interchange fee”, in whole or in part, as a surcharge on customer payments made by Eftpos, similar to charges by retailers for credit card payments.